Buried in the news that the Red Sox had acquired yet another closer in dealing for Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan was the knowledge that a one-time closer-in-training still waits in the Boston system.
That’s because Daniel Bard, who was once considered likely to take the ninth-inning reins from Jonathan Papelbon, is far from major league dominance after a mess of a season. Bard was moved into a starting role last year after Papelbon left and the team traded for closer Andrew Bailey. What followed was a rough few months where Bard not only faded as a starter but also loss the lights-out ability he had shown as a reliever.
Now, Bard is working on getting his form back — and the Red Sox are dealing for closers again.
With Hanrahan anointed the new closer and Bailey the setup man, the question now is what will happen to Bard. After his disappointing 2012, though, Bard isn’t eyeing the depth chart.
“I haven’t really thought about how it affects my situation,” Bard told Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. “I know I have a lot to prove coming into spring training, and I’m getting ready for that. Obviously my goal is to get back to the role I held for two or three years, setting up or better. Whatever I earn, that’s my goal.”
Bard said he was “a little bit surprised” that the team traded for Hanrahan, with Bailey already around. He said the bottom line, though, was that the move “makes our team better.”
Bard was also optimistic about a few things that are going in his favor as he gets ready to rebound. He spoke about how good it was to have the offseason as a time to rest and reset, and he had high praise for new manager John Farrell, who was Bard’s pitching coach during the youngster’s rise.
“Nothing is going to be handed to me, but at the same time it’s really nice having a relationship with [Farrell],” he said. “He’s seen [me] before. He’s seen me enough that regardless of how things go in spring training, he can look at me on the mound and say, ‘OK, that’s the Daniel Bard I saw for two years when I coached him.’ Or, ‘That’s not him, and we can work on these things, and let’s get him back to what he’s comfortable with.’
“It’s nice to have someone I don’t have to completely win over. It’s not a completely new set of eyes who I have to try and convince I’m a good major league pitcher. It’s somebody who knows me as a major league pitcher.”
Bard also spoke of the frustration he had in 2012, when he wasn’t sure what his role was. While he was a starter from Opening Day, the injury to Bailey coming out of spring training made him feel like he was always being evaluated, and there was a chance he’d get pulled back to the bullpen, Bard said. The uncertainty and scrutiny eventually became too much.
This year, there’s just one expectation for Bard, and he knows it well: Get it back. Hanrahan, Bailey or whoever else joins the Red Sox, Bard appears to have the count in his favor this time to do just that.